Three things we still can hold true
ESPN.com experts tackle the remaining truths in college hoops.
With all the conference-shifting around the country this season, we felt it necessary to remember a few things that still will hold true. ESPN.com's experts tackle the three things that will remain a constant in this season of change.
Apologies to Oprah, but in this day and age of constant and dizzying change, there are still some basic things in basketball that are constant. Here are three things I know down to my socks are true:
1. Experience still matters
When you have juniors and seniors, you win more often at the highest level. Last year, the Final Four was packed with experience and some young talent. While Marvin Williams may have been the most talented kid in St. Louis, the load was carried and the nets were cut down by Carolina's juniors and seniors.
Look all you want to Carmelo Anthony as your retort to this theory, but 'Melo was the exception to the rule. In Indianapolis, juniors and seniors will be carrying the loads -- and holding the scissors to cut the nets down.
2. Defense still keys winning
Last year, North Carolina became the first team since the early 1960s to lead the nation in scoring and win the national championship. While the Heels' defense was not as strong as their offense, it still was pretty darn good -- and vastly underrated.
Here's the rub: Most teams that are ranked high in scoring defense hold those positions because they are ball-control teams. They do not allow many possessions, and therefore do not allow as many points. Most good offensive teams score a lot of "easy" baskets, which come primarily off of defense. If you turn somebody over or force a bad shot and run off of it, you will face fewer defenders in the scoring area and go against set defenses less often.
If gritty, hard-nosed defense is not a team's staple, it will not win at the very highest level. You want to see which teams win? Look at scoring, but also look at shooting percentages, turnover margin, free-throw disparity, defensive field-goal percentage and rebound margin. Nobody wins big without guarding people. That will never change.
3. Dee Brown has no position; he's just a player
He is not a natural point and is small for a shooting guard, but the kid is a big-time college player who will carry perhaps the biggest load of any guard in America this year. He will have to bring the ball up, run some offense and call his own number. He will also have to adjust, at times, to waiting for the outlet before taking off downcourt -- something Deron Williams took care of for him last year. I know that Brown is first-team All-American good -- it's just that others out there are, too.
1. Kentucky will dominate the SEC
This year, though, it will be more a function of how weak the league will be relative to the recent past. The Wildcats' backcourt is solid, but after that there are a lot of question marks.
2. Charlotte will be a national sleeper again
3. Memphis will dominate Conference USA
1. Teams with the best point-guard play will come the closest to their potential
UCLA, Texas, Duke, Texas Tech, Villanova, Stanford, Kansas, Memphis, Gonzaga and others all have talented yet vastly different point guards. Elite point guards make a college team!
2. Big conference teams will play fewer and fewer great schedules
3. Full-court pressure still will be underutilized
1. Duke and North Carolina will play tremendous games
Forget about UNC's being down. The Tar Heels will give Duke tough games twice and, who knows, maybe even upset the Blue Devils at the Dean Smith Center. Remember when the roles were reversed in the mid-'90s? We anticipate the Tar Heels' rallying like never before when they play Duke.
2. Texas Tech will challenge for third, at least, in the Big 12
3. A double-digit seed from a low-major conference will pull off a major first-round upset